An ed­u­cated Pak­istan

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

So­ci­ety at large has al­ways val­ued un­der­dogs. In Pak­istan, where the state fails to pro­vide its cit­i­zens with the most ba­sic of rights, the peo­ple have no choice but to take charge of their own lives and those who sur­round them. In a sense, ma­jor­ity of us are the un­der­dogs, those who thrive in the face of ad­ver­sity and build a life for them­selves de­spite the chal­lenges. But to ex­tend help to those go­ing through the same tribu­la­tions is not as com­mon as it should be. Which is why it is im­por­tant to give credit where it is due, so that we re­al­ize our col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards our coun­try and its peo­ple.

One ex­am­ple is of a foun­da­tion ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion to chil­dren who oth­er­wise would drop out of school. The name of the foun­da­tion is CYTE - Chang­ing Youth Through Ed­u­ca­tion. CYTE was founded by a man who was faced with an im­passe when he was ten years old; he had to drop out of school, as his fam­ily could no longer af­ford it. That same man is now ed­u­cat­ing 750 school­child­ren in part­ner schools in and around La­hore. His jour­ney from hum­ble begin­nings to re­al­iz­ing his po­ten­tial is in­spi­ra­tional to say the least.

Although no child should be in such a sit­u­a­tion, life is of­ten cruel than fair and Yasar Rashid had to drop out of fifth grade when his fa­ther passed away sud­denly, un­less he se­cured a schol­ar­ship from else­where. Be­ing a bril­liant stu­dent, he was of­fered a merit schol­ar­ship by the school, where he stud­ied and was able to con­tinue his ed­u­ca­tion. This act of kind­ness by a few peo­ple is now re­spon­si­ble for ed­u­cat­ing hun­dreds oth­ers, cre­at­ing a mul­ti­plier ef­fect in the com­mu­ni­ties where he sup­ports these chil­dren.

Yasar went on to ac­com­plish his MBA from LUMS and other in­ter­na­tional ac­co­lades all on merit schol­ar­ships and worked his way to the top of a lead­ing bank in Pak­istan. As far as per­sonal achieve­ments go, there is no stone he left un­turned to make the most of his sit­u­a­tion and to rise to the chal­lenge.

While his ca­reer sky­rock­eted, he was sup­port­ing 20 un­der­priv­i­leged school­child­ren to be­gin with in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity. In 2013 he re­al­ized how low the cost can be to ed­u­cate a child in Pak­istan and de­cided to for­mal­ize the process so he can tar­get a wider num­ber of chil­dren who needed spon­sor­ship. This com­pelled him to register an NGO un­der the name of CYTE Foun­da­tion - and thus be­gun his jour­ney of sup­port­ing 750 fam­i­lies and their chil­dren from a mere num­ber of 20, in just two years.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion started with the ef­forts of Yasar and a sin­gle vol­un­teer, a stu­dent, who set up the foun­da­tion from scratch, trav­el­ling in public buses and rick­shaws to get the NGO reg­is­tered. The busi­ness model that they cre­ated to run his foun­da­tion leaves peo­ple in awe. The cost of ed­u­cat­ing a child for a whole month is as low as 750 ru­pees. One can af­ford a fast food meal for this amount, at best. The foun­da­tion has di­rected its fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing the in­fra­struc­ture of ex­ist­ing low-in­come pri­vate schools that cater to un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren and have nom­i­nal fee struc­tures. It se­lects the stu­dents through a rig­or­ous process of in­quiry of the par­ents, their source of in­come and the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the child. Then the school fee, books and school costs are pro­vided di­rectly to the part­ner school and the child is spon­sored by the foun­da­tion. The most im­por­tant as­pect is the fam­ily coun­sel­ing that is pro­vided along with the spon­sor­ship; this act goes a long way in the bet­ter­ment of the fam­ily and pre­vents a high rate of drop out.

It is com­mend­able that he has been able to keep the over­head cost at a mere 3.8%, which is the rea­son the UN Youth Chap­ter of Pak­istan chose the foun­da­tion to be pre­sented as a suc­cess case in the UN Youth Assem­bly in New York. There are cur­rently two field of­fi­cers and a small team of vol­un­teers who are run­ning the en­tire process of in­duct­ing stu­dents and coun­sel­ing the fam­i­lies.

The real chal­lenge that NGOs face is to be­come as cost ef­fec­tive as pos­si­ble. With min­i­mum re­sources it is im­por­tant to have the max­i­mum im­pact that re­sources would al­low. Fund rais­ing is an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent for long-term suc­cess of NGOs, but we have seen ex­am­ples glob­ally where NGOs have been able to self-sus­tain them­selves, like Doc­tors with­out Borders, Ox­fam and WWF. Such ex­am­ples should be stud­ied and dis­cussed so that in Pak­istan we can cre­ate sim­i­lar ex­am­ple and can have a sim­i­lar im­pact.

The other im­por­tant les­son to learn is that we do not need a lot of re­sources to be­gin mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. Some­times all you need is pas­sion and the will to bring change. There is so much po­ten­tial in our young peo­ple, but they lack the di­rec­tion and the guid­ance. The key is to un­der­stand and iden­tify what can be achieved us­ing ex­ist­ing re­sources, like built in­fra­struc­ture. This is where foun­da­tions like CYTE are suc­cess­ful. Yasar's dream of an ed­u­cated Pak­istan res­onates with thou­sands of peo­ple like us. Just more par­tic­i­pa­tion and ini­tia­tive re­mains to be seen.

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